It has been an incredible year for Queens swimmers Dion Dreesens ‘18 and Patricia Castro-Ortega ‘18. Both athletes have been preparing for the 2016 Olympics since grade school.
Dreesens, a freestyler from the Netherlands, began swimming when he was 8 years old. Ten years and thousands of hours in the pool later, he qualified for the 2012 Beijing Olympics, where his relay team placed seventh. Dreesens came to the United States just three years ago with no intention of being a student – he came to Charlotte to swim at Swim MAC Elite, a club team with the reputation of being one of the best in the U.S., or, in Dreesens’ opinion, the best in the world. Club coaches include past Olympic gold medalists as well as one of the coaches for Team U.S.A.Dreesens and the Queens swim team have also had the chance to train with Ryan Lochte, a five-time Olympic gold medalist.
When Dreesens competed in the 2012 Olympics, his relay team placed well, but his performance in individual events was not his best.
“I was too eager, and I didn’t follow my race plan,’’ he said. “In the end, I was way behind. It was a good learning process, and it was really good for the next Olympics [as] I’ll know what is going on and what to expect.”
Dreesens spends a total of six hours training every day. Each morning, he dedicates an hour to dry land exercises, two hours to swimming and an hour to lifting weights. Evenings he spends in the pool, with an additional two hours of swimming. It’s a lot of work to swim on two teams while balancing classes and studying, but Dreesens is used to it.
“I like the routine,” he said. “You get a lot from swimming, but you also have to put a lot into it.”
Jeff Dugdale, Queens’ head swim coach, said that Dreesens had an incredible summer representing the Netherlands at the World Championships in Russia, where his team placed top 12.
“He looks to use his collegiate season to increase his racing experience so that he is prepared over eight days in Rio,’’ said Dugdale. “Dion is a welcome addition to the program.”
Dreesens, who has already qualified for the Netherlands team in the 2016 Olympics, has several upcoming opportunities to qualify for individual freestyle races. After graduation, he said that he does not plan to work right away as he would still like to train for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, and would swim until then.
Just like Dreesens, Spanish swimmer Patricia Castro-Ortega swims freestyle for Queens as well as Swim MAC Elite. Castro-Ortega, who grew up in Madrid, was recently named the NCAA Swimmer of the Year and the Bluegrass Mountain Conference Swimmer of the Year. She said that she transferred to Queens from Compilutense University in Madrid two years ago because she was dissatisfied with the Spanish swim program. She knew that if she wanted to qualify for the 2016 Olympics, she would need to come to Charlotte to train.Castro-Ortega has not yet qualified for the 2016 Olympics. She is currently training for Spanish Nationals in March and working to secure qualifying times for Spain’s Olympic swim team in the Freestyle and Individual Medley.
“Patri thrived on the experience that she got in racing at the NCAA Championships and now looks forward to leveraging and capitalizing on her senior year as well,’’ said Coach Dugdale. “It is our goal to translate her racing and training into another successful bid for Spain in 2016.”
What differentiates Castro-Ortega from her Queens teammates?
Nothing, she said.
“I don’t think there’s anything that differentiates myself from my team,’’ she said. “I don’t feel like I’m different. We’re all equally committed. It’s like a family.”
Both Castro-Ortega and Dreesens were named Bluegrass Mountain Conference Swimmers of the Week on October 6.